I've posted a new essay in the Kabul section if you're interested, and here are some articles from around the web this week:
- The beautiful Klementinum Library in the Czech Republic
- The executive editor of National Review goes to a fashion show in NYC
- Absolutely love this floral wallpaper from Ashley Woodson Bailey
- How does Paris stay chic? It imports Brooklyn
- Interesting article about how the model of winning at all costs reinforces the American pathology of not making room for caregiving. The result: We hemorrhage talent and hollow out our society
- From The Guardian, Why ISIS Fights
- George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin's gorgeous English country house
- Charles Pétillion's "Heartbeat" installation in Covent Garden is fantastic. He says:
"The balloon invasions I create are metaphors. Their goal is to change the way in which we see the things we live alongside each day without really noticing them. With Heartbeat I wanted to represent the Market Building as the beating heart of this area – connecting its past with the present day to allow visitors to re-examine its role at the heart of London’s life. Each balloon has its own dimensions and yet is part of a giant but fragile composition that creates a floating cloud above the energy of the market below. This fragility is represented by contrasting materials and also the whiteness of the balloons that move and pulse appearing as alive and vibrant as the area itself."
It is quite fitting that the art I saw over Easter Weekend was housed in a church. The Dan Flavin Art Institute, part of the Dia Art Foundation, is located in the former First Baptist Church of Bridgehampton on Corwith Avenue. Originally built as a firehouse in 1908, the building was occupied by the church from 1924 to the mid-1970's. Under the direction of Flavin and the architect Richard Gluckman, Dia restored and renovated the structure to acknowledge both of its former purposes; it holds traces of its former functional and spiritual uses. "The church doors were moved to the entrance of a small exhibition space on the second floor, created to house memorabilia collected during the renovation from and about the church, including a neon cross. This conversion alludes to Flavin's transformation of light and fluorescent fixtures from spiritual associations or mundane service to contemporary 'icons' depleted of religious or utilitarian significance." Indeed, the historical and contemporary elements of the structure and exhibition flow together nicely.
Dan Flavin was born in New York City in 1933, and made his first work with electric light in 1961. Marcel Duchamp's invention of the ready-made and Jasper Johns' use of everyday objects in an artistic context - most notably his bronze light bulbs - were precedents for Flavin's use of fluorescent lights. Flavin used standard fluorescent fixtures and tubes mounted directly on walls, as well as elements from painting, sculpture, and architecture to create his pieces. Flavin used fluorescent light because the phosphors radiate at different wavelengths within the visible color spectrum, producing levels of illumination that vary according to each color. Red is subdued because no mixture of phosphors makes a true red, while green is so bright that it fatigues the eye and may appear white.
I thought the light installations were cool; the colors were vivid and I enjoyed walking through the rainbow-colored room. This is what the sophisticated viewer is supposed to get from the exhibition: "By viewing all the lights and the architecture as a single, continuous installation, one can most appreciate the extent to which the artist developed his medium. By manipulating the formal, phenomenal, and referential characteristics of light, Flavin provided an experience built of provocative contrasts - between colors, intensities of light, structure and formlessness, the obvious and the curious, the serious and the humorous."
After we had walked through the installation and were about to leave, a German curator stopped us at the door and asked us to walk through the lights again silently. He said, "Das hier is the present. Feel connected to the pieces and you will feel connected to everything in the world and everything that was and everything that will be right here right now. Es geht um die Gegenwart der Kunst im Dialog mit unserer Gegenwart (It is about the presence of the art in dialogue with our presence)." We were too confused and too polite to refuse him.
The rest of the weekend was spent at Wölffer Estate in Sagaponack and Tutto il Giorno in Sag Harbor and a friend's home in Southampton. Interestingly, one late night conversation turned to the question "What is art?" A younger, properly millennial friend answered "Art is everything" (including, and most importantly, her snapchat). Similarly, Michel Foucault once said, "What strikes me is the fact that in our society, art has become something which is related only to objects and not to individuals, or to life. That art is something which is specialized or which is done by experts who are artists. But couldn't everyone's life become a work of art? Why should the lamp or the house be an art object, but not our life?" I haven't formulated a concrete definition yet, though I'm sure it would be much narrower than my friend's or Foucault's. Do you have your own definition?
I'm looking forward to this movie about one of the great legal battles in art history. Listen to the NPR story about Maria Altmann here. And if you're in New York, you can view the "woman in gold," also known as the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, at the Neue Gallerie. I've seen it and it is dazzling.
The Armory Show is a leading international contemporary and modern art fair held annually at Piers 92 & 94 in New York City. You can read a short history of the Armory Show here. I am often skeptical, and sometimes even downright dismissive of contemporary and modern art, but I find there's always something interesting to be discovered at the larger shows. And as I learned in Berlin, even if none of the exhibitions end up being worthwhile, the people watching is excellent. This year, I was particularly interested in the Armory Focus on MENAM-- "apparatuses that shape the discourse, economy, and culture surrounding contemporary art in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean." Note: if you're interested in these themes, also see the New Museum's recent exhibition "Here and Elsewhere," which features artists who make work in and about the Arab world. Omar Kholeif, the curator at the Whitechapel Gallery in London and of the Armory Focus, described the show as follows:
"The context of this Focus initiative seeks to propose a new departure point. Rather than consider entrenched boundaries of what constitutes the Middle Eastern arts ecology, I took the decision to anchor the program around the Mediterranean, suggesting a new artistic cartography that links the art of Southern Europe to Western Asia and North Africa. In this proposed cultural sphere, parallels that at first seem abstract quickly become transparent: shares histories of migration and colonization, as well as social and political reform, begin to materialize. In turn, trade routes, common languages, and religious and communal traditions appear. Indeed, the Mediterranean is bound as much by a sense of kinship as it is to one of deep-rooted conflict and disparity."
The following are some of the pieces that caught my eye:
Cowboy Code (Hadith) by Ahmed Mater -- this installation compares two codes of ethics, the former from the American West and the latter from the Islamic code, "referring to statements or actions of the Prophet Muhammad, known as the Hadith. The piece is composed entirely of the red plastic toy gun caps, canonical with the image of Western Cowboys and tropes of Mater's childhood and US popular culture."
The New(er) Middle East by Oraib Toukan -- this piece is an interactive puzzle which engages with the public," asking them to re-assemble a territorial map of the Middle East made from suspended plastic magnets, each fragment consisting of one of the region's actual states." I like maps and I liked the general aesthetic, though if you think about it for a second it seems to be a demonstration of that which gave birth to the modern troubles of the Middle East (redrawing boundaries and so on).
Lust Deceit Love Death Revenge by Janice Kerbel -- I don't know anything about this piece but I like typography. Try to decode this bit of information I found on the artist in relation to this piece: "The work of London-based Canadian artist Janice Kerbel often makes use of existing systems of organizing and presenting information, borrowing from and modifying the conventions of various disciplines to explore imaginary situations." Does anyone else find "art speak" dense and cryptic? Or to put it another way, does anyone else think art speak is, at times, complete nonsense?
Gas Shell by David LaChapelle -- I had to take a picture of this because "romantic gas station lights" is a baffling theme I've picked up on in contemporary art. Here's something I found about the artist: "Living in an environmentally responsible paradise since 2006 in Maui (Hawaii), he built an organic farm and totally changed his life. Who never entered a gas station for refueling? We all did, at least once. Infrastructure of oil production and distribution, and their impact, are in the center of modern society. LaChapelle’s started with his Gas Stations settled in the heart of the tropical forest. His Refineries sit in state in the middle of the Californian desert. Both series are made up of hand-crafted models combined to repurposed products, issued by these same factories. The effect is both fascinating and unsettling [sic]." I'll just let you think about that so my snark doesn't influence your opinion.
I Copy Therefore I am by Superflex -- the Danish collective created this photo print on vinyl with Barbara Kruger's iconic 1986 print work "I shop, therefore I am" altered to read "I copy, therefore I am." I hope viewers recognize that Kruger, as "iconic" as she might be in some circles, was rephrasing Descartes, whose philosophical statement cogito ergo sum (je pense, donc je suis) was penned in his 1637 Discourse on Method.
Excellences and Perfections by Amalia Ulman -- there was bound to be a selfie on display. "Amalia used her time in residence at The Moving Museum to develop her on-going research into social stratification, cultural capital, class imitation and seduction. More specifically, she sought to explore the status of women in Turkey and the placement of prostitution, feminism, plastic surgery, medicine and art in Turkish society. During her time in Istanbul she culminated her Instagram performance Excellences & Perfections with 'some holiday sugar-baby style selfies.'"
A Shout Within A Storm by Glenn Kaino -- a mobile installation composed of more than 100 copper arrows pointed at an invisible target. There were so many good photo opportunities here. . . wish I would have been more creative.
The first photo featured in this post is of the Albert Baronian Gallery exhibition with a handwoven carpet by Mekhitar Garabedian, a Syrian-born artist with Armenian roots who grew up in Ghent. I quite liked the carpet entitled Fig. A, a comme alphabet, which features the Armenian alphabet, but I also found the artist's story interesting:
"The work of Mekhitar Garabedian (b. Aleppo, Syria, 1977) can be seen as a continuous journey of excavation into his personal and complex identity as an immigrant, an investigation that immediately also shines light on the concept of ‘descent’ in general. Garabedian was born in Syria, but has Armenian roots. His family fled the Armenian genocide in 1915 and in 1981, during the Lebanese civil war, they moved on to Belgium. He has lived in Belgium since he was a child, but as a second and third generation immigrant, he indisputably carries his past with him. Again and again, Garabedian attempts to translate (often quite literally) the individual remembrance of his heritage, laden with stately images from a long-ago past, into a present that is continually in motion. With the help of the languages of media, including text, photography, sound, neon, publications, video and installations, this individual starting point in turn nestles itself in a new collective narrative. Garabedian’s own family history can consequently be seen from a more universal perspective, one in which we are all multicultural people, comprised of an unlimited number of identities. Garabedian relates the perspective of the other (in ourselves) not by forcing us to be open to it, but by inviting us to take pause, as a simple matter of course. He engages us in his journey of reconnaissance, into an expression of the idea of identity, language, physical and mental migration through places, so that ultimately, it is the interaction of a work of art with its observer that becomes central."
Finally, you can read a review of the Armory Show here from the New York Times.
"Art has something to do
with an arrest of attention
in the midst of distraction."
We escaped from Mons to Brussels this weekend, and enjoyed ourselves in Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, on the Avenue Louise, and in the magnificently decorated Grand Place. On recommendation from one of my professors in New York, we also visited the Musée des Beaux Arts to see Bruegel's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus." It was the loveliest weekend with some of my favorite people. There are more photos from Belgium here if you're interested, and following is W.H. Auden's poem about the Bruegel entitled "Musée des Beaux Arts":
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Brueghel's Icarus for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
"Through art mysterious bonds of
understanding and of knowledge
are established among men."
The arrival of summer is always sweeter after the completion of another long semester of law school. When the weather cooperates, as it has this week, I find it liberating to walk as much as possible all over the city. From my apartment on the Upper East, I usually walk down Madison or Park until I'm too tired to go any further. Yesterday, a friend and I stopped in at the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to drink limoncello and see Imran Qureshi's large-scale, site-specific work of art. Qureshi is a Pakistani artist known for his unique style of combining the motifs, symbols, and ornamental techniques of Islamic art with conceptual modern approaches. The installation was essentially an acrylic painting of ornamental leaf patterns on the floor of the rooftop. The patterns "evoke the luxurious walled gardens that are ubiquitous in miniatures of the Mughal court; they also echo the spectacular verdant foliage of Central Park."
The first thought I had when I saw the painting was "blood." Qureshi's method was to spill and splatter the paint, which gives the impression, from a distance, that there has been a mass slaughter on the rooftop. But as you get closer and actually walk over the painting, the beautiful ornamental leaf patterns emerge. Qureshi's project "represents the artist's emotional response to the violence occurring across the globe in recent decades and his earnest hope for regeneration and lasting peace in the aftermath of man-made distasters." I like that he is making a political statement, especially in light of the ongoing war in Syria. I wouldn't call the painting particularly impressive in the setting, mostly because people are more in awe of the magnificent city view than the paint splatterings, and also because the atmosphere on the rooftop does not lend itself to any kind of serious contemplation. I do, however, think it sends a powerful message once you step away and think about it.
The Museum of Modern Art has transformed an empty adjacent lot into a large scale art installation, and so I recently found myself at the edge of a dark, damp room lit by one bright light, watching people walk through rain pouring softly from the ceiling. I love and hate modern art, and find myself hating it more often than I find myself loving it, but I have to admit, my first impression was that this particular installation was magical.
In fact, magic is a word often used to describe the Rain Room. As one newspaper noted, "If magic were real, it might feel something like this." Part of the magic is that you can walk straight into what appears to be a serious downpour, and stay completely dry. You feel like you have the power to control the rain. Of course, you also have to walk slowly, and you are aware, at least subconsciously, that sensors mounted on the ceiling are detecting your every move. Still, there is something very surreal about walking through a rainstorm in the dark and not feeling a drop of water. And for a person who has lived in rainy London, it is also kind of a dream come true.
The magic of the Rain Room is also what it does to those who are experiencing it. When you enter, you stand in a waiting line and watch the shapes of the people who entered before you. The people under the rain pose for pictures and hug one another and walk around testing every inch of the installation, all the while experiencing the strange sensation that comes from hearing and smelling and feeling the wet warmth around you while staying completely dry. Those people are completely unaware that those of us waiting are watching their every move. Strangely, under the rain, no one is self conscious. As one of the creators stated, "the installation recognizes the presence of the viewer," but magically, the participants do not.
I liked the rain room very much, but there is of course room for critique. The creators of the Rain Room aren't elaborating on the technology they developed, which is complicated I'm sure, but the experience would be more surreal if the dry "circle" above a person walking through the installation was much smaller. If three or more people are standing together, the large dry space that opens up above seems less god-like and more like a glitch in the system. Perhaps an easy non-technological fix would be to allow only 5 or so people to walk through at a time, with instructions to venture out on one's own and to avoid group encounters while under the rain. In addition, I think viewers would get more out of the art if there was a more somber or serious atmosphere in the room. Finally, I think allowing photography is great, but loud people who just want to stand on the sidelines to Instagram should be kicked out stat.
If you're in New York I encourage you to see it. Walk slow and don't get wet.
I remember one weekend in Paris about two years ago when it was so hot I couldn't walk down the street without feeling sick. I was staying in a hostel on the Rue la Lafayette so I could afford lavish dinners, and there was no air conditioning. I decided to wander around the Louvre instead of suffering in the heat or changing hotels, and spent two whole days looking at art and looking at people looking at art. It was absolutely splendid. I would like to start a collection of art appreciation photos like these soon.
My good friend Peter* recently gave a talk at The Oval Space in London where he argued that we should look at the art community not as an isolated group but as an active participant in the post-industrial information economy, and as an integral part of the process of human innovation. Artists and bankers, he says, are more alike than most people think.Read More
From this WSJ article on the lost art of handwriting:
The ready communication through electronic means that has replaced the handwritten letter is wonderful. But we have definitely lost something here, and those Skype, email and text exchanges won't be treasured in the way that my teenage letters, scribbled journals and postcards have been for years.
Many people have, in a box somewhere, their grandparents' letters and postcards, and they think of them as treasured possessions. They are. But these days, to tell other people about these possessions, we reach for electronic media. We write something that, in five years, will have completely vanished—and will never mean as much as a pen, and a choice of ink, and some well-chosen words on paper.
"To emphasize only the beautiful seems to me
to be like a mathematical system that only
concerns itself with positive numbers."
My sister and I went to the Prada & Schiaparelli exhibition at the Met last week and thought it was lovely. The exhibition featured orchestrated conversations between the two designers (directed by Baz Luhrmann) amidst their innovative pieces that were organized into themes. Here are some quotes from the conversations:
Schiaparelli: At moments of restriction, fantasy alone [can] lift people above dreariness. Fantasy is a flower that does not flourish on passivity.
Prada: If I have done anything, it is to make ugly appealing. In fact, most of my work is concerned with destroying - or at least deconstructing - conventional ideas of beauty, of the generic appeal of the beautiful, glamorous, bourgeois woman. Fashion fosters clichés of beauty, but I want to tear them apart.
Schiaparelli: Antoine made me some fabulous wigs for evening and even pour le sport. I wore them in white, in silver, in red for the snow of St. Moritz, and would feel utterly unconscious of the stir they created.
Tom Fruin's "Watertower" is a gorgeous sculptural work of art made of steel and roughly one thousand scraps of scavenged or reclaimed plexiglas from around the city. It will stand atop a building in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) in juxtaposition with the steely prominence of the Manhattan Bridge, and the New York City skyline, which is itself dotted with the functioning water towers of the city.
Interesting note: the wooden and steel water towers that you see on the tops of buildings all over the city are not quaint relics of a bygone era, they actually supply the city with water for daily use. Most buildings taller than six stories require some kind of water tower and pumping system.
Have you been watching the Middle East? Did you know that tens of thousands are protesting in Egypt right now? Did you know that in Egypt, public dissent is usually harshly criticized, and that this level of protest is unprecedented there? Indeed it is.Read More